An Introduction To Employment Law in Canada

The rights of workers are covered under employment law, also sometimes known as labor law. The Federal and provincial constitution, as well as opinions of the court and pending legislation also govern employment law, and a contract may exist between employer and workers to enforce these laws. Although an important aspect of employment law is to ensure that workers are treated fairly and work in a safe and healthy environment, the rights of employers too are also protected by these laws.

During the Industrial Revolution, many of the work practices were questionable, and public outcry over working conditions led to the beginnings of what would become Canadian employment law. Child labor was banned during the early 20th century, and around that same time, the standard working week was established, along with the concept of a minimum wage and compensation for injured workers. Unsafe working conditions and discrimination against women were addressed during the 1960s, and equal pay for men and women and of course, affordable health care are important issues today.

Violations concerning the number of hours worked, and the amount of pay are the two most common concerns leading to litigation. Provinces pass their own legislation concerning work and hours issues after basic guidelines have been set down under Federal law. Employers are legally required to adhere to any guidelines regulating minimum wage, as laid down by their own state, and the guidelines under Federal law.

Overtime in the form of time and a half pay must be paid to adults who work over 40 hours per week, although under the Federal law there are no restrictions on the number of hours a person may work in a week. Any workers aged under 18 are subject to a special set of rules concerning overall working conditions and the number of hours worked, especially any younger worker in the agriculture field. All employers in this field also need to maintain records of payroll and post relevant notices.

Many cases of employment law are concerned with discrimination in the workplace, and of course, it is illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion and other protected characteristics, following the Canadian Human Rights Act. If you feel you have been discriminated in the workplace, the Canadian Human Rights Commision must issue a Right to Sue letter; this is one of several required procedures, and consulting an employment lawyer is recommended.

The ‘At Will’ Presumption

An employee can be terminated at any time by either the employee themselves, or the employer and this ‘at will’ relationship exists in almost every state. However, if another arrangement were made between the employee and the employer as to how the work contract would end, that arrangement would then override the at-will relationship. Under employment law, there are also several other exceptions to the at-will relationship:

In some provinces, employees cant be terminated in bad faith; for example, so that the employer isn’t obligated to pay a benefit such as a bonus. In all provinces, employees are protected from being terminated due to retaliatory reasons, including reporting workplace violations or filing a claim for compensation. And of course, employees also can’t be fired for discriminatory reasons.

Any legal work contract between an employee and their employer can be legally enforced, as long as it was drawn up to be valid instead of the at-will relationship. A written document isn’t even required; an oral contract or assurance is perfectly adequate.

Some clauses are often an issue in cases involving employment law that are brought before the court. Two of the most common are employees being restricted from disclosing trade or industry information or secrets, and a restriction against an employee carrying out the same type of work with a competitor or in the same local area.

Issues of compliance, sexual harassment, insurance claims and workers’ compensation are some common areas of employment law, and many attorneys, likeĀ LM Law, will choose to specialize in one or more of these critical areas. Working with the right attorney who has the knowledge and relevant experience is a must for anyone who has a claim in one of these areas of employment law.